Looking to tally its sixth straight win, No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball searched for the the bucket it needed to put away the Ohio State Buckeyes in the final quarter of Thursday’s game.
As sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell drove to the hoop to provide the coup de grâce, she had her shot sent back into the open floor, creating another opportunity for the Buckeyes to try to battle back. But a few possessions later, senior guard Kaila Charles took it into her own hands, taking it back to the rim, absorbing the contact and banking it high off the glass to hammer home the victory for the Terps.
Maryland’s offensive effort was fueled by the high percentage shots the team was able to get at the rim, shooting 55.7 percent from the field en route to a dominant 85-65 win over the Buckeyes.
Charles led all scorers with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while Mikesell and sophomore forward Shakira Austin added 15 points apiece. Freshman guard Diamond Miller and senior forward Stephanie Jones had 13 and 10 points respectively, giving the Terps four different players to reach double-digit scoring.
Much like they did their last time out, guards Blair Watson and Mikesell each knocked down their first two field goal attempts of the game to account for 10 of the Maryland offense’s first 12 points of the quarter.
But the Terps didn’t break free of the Buckeyes until the midway point of the period, going on a 15-2 run over the final 5:47 of the quarter put Maryland ahead by 15 entering the second period.
Spark plug freshman guard Diamond Miller provided a strong shift off the bench, scoring seven points in the quarter to lead all scorers after one.
She also helped lead the defense-into-offense effort, as she turned a steal into a layup on the other end after scoring on the team’s previous offensive possession, giving Maryland its first double-digit lead of the game.
Austin’s status was in doubt coming into Thursday night’s contest, suffering an ankle injury in Maryland’s win over Northwestern the previous Sunday that forced her to miss the rest of the game.
However, it did not stop her from making her eighth straight start of the season, sporting a leg sleeve on the injured leg though not showing any signs of lingering pain.
Austin continued to show no ill-effects from her injury, giving sophomore Buckeye forward Dorka Juhasz all she could handle inside the paint.
With 6:11 left in the second quarter, Austin began to post up from just outside the restricted area, shooting her hand in the air to ask for the ball. She received the pass, faced-up and then pirouetted to her left for the hoop plus the foul, swishing the ensuring free throw to extend Maryland’s lead to 18.
Head coach Brenda Frese went on to funnel the Terp offense through Austin for the rest of the quarter, forcing the Buckeyes to find a way to counter the length and athleticism the 6’5 sophomore brings to the table. She scored 11 points in the quarter and pulled down six rebounds to help the Terps take a commanding 45-23 lead into the halftime break.
Ohio State did not lay down on its home floor entering the second half though, looking determined to keep Maryland from extending an already massive lead.
Taking advantage of a slow start offensively to the half for Maryland, the Buckeyes managed to cut the lead to 15 with over half of the quarter still remaining, but a determined drive to the goal resulting in an and-one by senior guard Kaila Charles with 3:48 left in the third quelled a good deal of the momentum the Buckeyes had generated.
Ohio State battled throughout the rest of the quarter and ultimately out-scored Maryland 23-14 in the third. But the Buckeyes still trailed by just 13 going into the game’s final frame.
But tensions began to boil over for the Buckeyes, resulting in two technical fouls that gave Maryland multiple attempts from the charity stripe to extend the deficit. Mikesell was the primary beneficiary of the added shots from the charity stripe, scoring nine points in the quarter while shooting 5-of-6 from the free throw line to help carry the Terps to the finish line.
Three things to know
1. Blair Watson continued to make her case for Defensive Player of the Year. On Jan. 23, Watson was listed on the NCAA’s Naismith Women’s National Defensive Player of the Year Midseason Watch List, a deserving honor for helping anchor Maryland’s defense for much of this season. Thursday’s game was another glowing example of why she’s a legitimate candidate for the award, totaling four blocks and two steals to go with nine points.
2. Ohio State’s offense was just another victim of Maryland’s vicious defense. Though Maryland’s defense is known for creating turnovers from its press, such wasn’t even needed tonight to force the Buckeyes into excessive turnovers. Live-ball turnovers were a consistent issues for Ohio State in its half-court offensive sets, as the Terps were always one step ahead in regard to getting into passing lanes and forcing turnovers. Ohio State committed 20 turnovers on the evening, accounting for 28 points off turnovers for Maryland — another ho-hum performance for a dominant unit.
3. The Buckeyes had no answer for Maryland’s interior scorers. When the Terps are up against a team that struggles to protect the paint, they almost always make a concerted effort to routinely attack that area of the floor. Such was the case once again on Thursday night, as Maryland notched 56 points in the paint — six shy of its season high.